On Monday the Office of Research on Womens Health celebrates its 20th Anniversary. Ensuring that womens health research is part of the scientific community, the ORWH works with the National Institutes of Health researching a diversity of predominantly female diseases.To celebrate with them, lets educate ourselves on yet another predominantly female disease: Heart disease.The FactsIt may sound shocking, but an estimated 42 million women live with some form of cardiovascular disease in the United States. It is the leading cause of death in American women, killing more than one third of them. Getting less hype than the other womens health issue such as breast cancer, heart disease kills more women over 65 than all cancers combined.Despite the notion that men are usually associated with heart attacks and cardiovascular disease, more women actually die of the illness each year. 23% of women will die within one year of a heart attack compared to 18% of men; 22-32% of women heart attack survivors will die within five years, whereas 15-27% of men will; and 12-25% of women will be diagnosed with heart failure within 5 years of a heart attack, in contrast to the 7-22% of men.It also doesnt help that women make up only 27% of heart-related research participants, and are less likely to take daily low-dose aspirin (which is known to reduce the risk of heart attack, stroke, and heart disease deaths.) Get it together, ladies! The Findings
Blood TestsLets start with the good news. Newer, more effective blood tests haveand are stillbeing developed that can predict if a patient is at high risk for heart disease. Vanderbilt University is among the first in the country to offer said test. Dr. John McPherson, director of the Cardiovascular Intensive Care Unit at the universitys Medical Center, remarks: "We now have a novel way to check for the presence of significant coronary artery disease by looking at genes that are associated with heart disease."He continued: "This is the first of many future tests that will move in the direction of evaluating diseases by looking at a patient's genetics and the dynamic changes in expression of genes when disease is present."McPherson called the test another tool in our tool box. It will be used in addition toand sometimes in lieu ofthe standard approach to assessing patients for heart disease in the doctors office.DepressionIn less exciting news, a recent study found that people with both heart disease and depression are much more likely to die than those with just one of the illnesses.Researchers in England, Finland, France, and the U.S. scrutinized information from about 6,000 middle-aged adults from the British Whitehall II study, which considers the result social and economic factors have on long-term health.
Published last week in the journal Heart, scientist deduced that the mixture of depression and heart disease triples the risk of death from all causes and quadruples the risk of death from heart attack or stroke.
Yoga, daily doses of Vitamin D (preferably from sunlight) and saffron supplements are a few of the natural ways to help combat the blues.
Another (20 year) study recently found that young adults with high cholesterol are at a higher risk of developing heart issues later in life.
Published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, the research challenges the common assumption that cholesterol levels early in life are irrelevant, suggesting early intervention should be important.
Mark Pletcher, lead author and associate professor of Epidemiology & Biostatistics and of Medicine at the University of California, San Francisco notes: "Our evidence shows that young adulthood is an important time because lasting damage already starts to accumulate at this age."
Though it may be too late for us now, we certainly can help out our grandkids by giving them one scoop instead of two.
None of this information will shock youand you know you should be doing it anywaybut lets go over things you can do to avoid heart problems.
Stop Smoking!The most important decision for having a healthy heart is quittingor notsmoking. Puffing away increases blood pressure, decreases tolerance for exercise and increases the tendency for blood to clot. Smoking also increases the risk of recurrent coronary heart disease after bypass surgery.ExerciseAn inactive lifestyle is another risk factor for heart disease. Fortunately, it's a risk factor that you change. You dont need to hit the gym every day at 5 AM, but a simple daily walk or always opting for the stairs can significantly lower your risk of the disease.Be Mindful of What You EatLimiting your unhealthy fats (saturated and trans) and cholesterol can lower your risk of coronary artery disease. (Another shocker, huh?) A high cholesterol level can lead to buildup of plaques in arteries, which can lead to both heart attack and stroke.Avoid overdoing the solid fats like butter, margarine and shortening, and instead opt for monounsaturated fats, olive oil, canola oil and cholesterol-lowering margarine such as Benecol or Smart Balance.Even though women possess high risk factors for the disease, small changes you make in your daily life can reap big rewards.Nicole Fabian is an assistant editor at ThirdAge.com.